Senior living facilities face lawsuits in aftermath of Hurricane Irma

From lost power to evacuations, hurricanes leave senior living facilities more susceptible to lawsuits. Give your clients greater protection with a specialized policy from Burns & Wilcox

Senior living facilities face lawsuits in aftermath of Hurricane Irma

Insurance News


A 90-year-old mother tragically passed away in the days following Hurricane Irma’s landfall in Florida last summer. According to a wrongful death lawsuit filed against an assisted living facility last week, her son states the facility failed to provide a safe and comfortable living environment—claiming its air conditioning and other mechanical systems failed after the storm hit and the facility had no plan in place to protect its residents.

The facility, Savannah Court of the Palm Beaches, is one of several senior living or nursing home facilities that have faced lawsuits in the aftermath of Irma. The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills was named along with Florida Power & Light in lawsuits accusing administrators and staff of failing to evacuate residents once the facility’s air conditioning failed. Eight people died there.

Tragedies such as these illustrate why owners of senior living facilities need the protection afforded by a Senior Living Facilities policy. Senior Living Facilities policies cover the outcome of accidents or negligence onsite, such as resident injury, illness or property damage. These policies package Professional Liability and General Liability (GL) coverage together to avoid gaps. Often the lines get blurred as to whether a claim was a result of professional error or something that was addressed under a GL policy, so it is ideal to package them together.

Various Sublimits & Endorsements Provide Additional Coverage

The 2017 arrival of Hurricane Irma had been anticipated for days, so both Savannah Court and The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills would have benefited from an Evacuation Endorsement.

An Evacuation Endorsement can help manage a situation when a facility needs to move residents because of an incident, such as a pending hurricane, power outage or fire that can jeopardize the safety of the residents and causes significant damage to the facility, said Dana Kocen, Broker, Burns & Wilcox. The policy generally provides sublimits for evacuation expenses that often cover up to $25,000 in out-of-pocket costs ranging from transporting residents in the wake of a facility evacuation, housing them in a sister facility or hotel, or feeding residents, she added.

“It generally relates to imminent danger from an external event and provides some clarity in what the facility should be doing to protect and respond to their residents in a timely manner,” Kocen said. “However the facility must also do its part and have a formal evacuation plan in place during times of emergency.” Kocen said she believes having such coverage in place could have encouraged either of the Florida facilities to evacuate its residents before Irma made landfall. The evacuation coverage within the policy form with most carriers could have helped plan for a more orderly evacuation of residents at several senior facilities around Houston when Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017.

Other common endorsements tied to a Senior Living Facilities policy include an Elopement Endorsement, which offers protection in case a resident is not properly supervised according to facility protocols…

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